Aunt Sarah: Woman of The Dawnland
Note from Laura: Aunt Sarah: Woman of The Dawnland is the fascinating story of Sarah Somers, a Native American woman who lived in New England from 1823 until 1930. Trudy Parker is Sarah’s great-great niece. To learn more about Sarah Somers click here. To purchase the book click here.
A low backache had been what originally brought her out of a light sleep, but now she realized that her time was here.
Beside her John asked, “What is it, Sarah? Is it time for the baby now?” She sat on the side of the bed and calmly said, “Yes it is time, husband.”
He jumped out of bed with a speed that made Sarah laugh softly to herself, in spite of the discomfort she was feeling now from the pains in her abdomen and back.
“I’ll go get some help, Sarah. I’ll get Margaret!” Standing up, Sarah got her bearings, and began to walk the floor.
“You will get nobody unless I tell you!” She snapped. Sarah felt confident that she knew what to do. For three days now she had been sipping the special tea made of wild raspberry leaves, which were a relaxant for the uterine muscles. She did not expect a hard labor. She was young and strong, and childbirth was a natural thing. Already out of sweetgrass she had fashioned a birthing basket, and when the cycle was completed, from a squatting position her man or woman child would drop into this, onto the soft folds of clean white cotton sheet-blankets.
John was flying around the cabin like a leaf in the wind, and Sarah had set him to boiling water. Then she placed a heavy broom handle across the backs of two chairs.
As her pains became harder and John said, “I don’t care what you say Sarah, you can’t have this baby by yourself!”
When she could speak, she wet her dry lips and answered, “I am not alone…you are here.”
“Please Sarah…let me get a women.”
Now Sarah was working hard and she was impatient, and she told her husband, “We made this baby without any help, John…we can bring it into the world without any help!”
Sarah was absolutely right, too. When her pains were very close she squatted over the basket on the floor between her legs. She had the chairs in place so that she could, if she needed to, drop to her knees and push on the sturdy broom handle while having a pain, but this was not necessary and suddenly she called to John, “Come quickly,…help me…it is here,” and he ran to her, and together they eased the new and slippery life into the basket below. At that moment Sarah felt weak and unsteady on her feet, but her vision cleared and John mustered up a strength he didn’t know he possessed. He even helped in the process of tying the tiny knots in the umbilical cord and then by cutting between those knots, separating this newborn child from its mother.
Sweetgrass was burning in a dish on the stove, and in the tiny basket lay a baby girl with masses of unruly straight black hair that would one day be the color of her mother’s.
Sarah eased her way back and lay down upon the bed. This was the time to go to bed, after the labor was done, she thought. This is why Margaret or no other White lady could come to help. They would hinder.
“It is a girl baby, husband John…is she all right?” Sarah asked, and even though she was momentarily drained, she was more concerned with how her child was.
Her labor had been short, but she was suddenly very sleepy. She smiled as John handed the newly cleaned and prepared bundle over to nuzzle at her breast. As he did so, he said, “She is not just all right, Sarah, she is perfect!” His face was beaming with fatherly pride.
* * * * * * * * * *
When Caroline was six years old, Sarah bore a son. He had come into this world with little trouble. He had been born in the heat of late August after a day of blackberry picking, and even though Sarah was tired when the labor started, still she was ready. She had been drinking the concoction mixed with raspberry leaves for many days now, and this labor was even shorter than with her first child.
She was alone when this baby arrived, and while her daughter Caroline slept through her afternoon nap undisturbed in the next room, Sarah delivered the boy herself and then cut the cord between them. Looking down into his perfect dark little face, she felt a rush of pride, even before she removed him from his birthing basket which she straddled. She clucked and fussed over him, and gently washed the child and wrapped him in soft blankets, and then lay down beside him on her bed. He was plump and healthy, and her heart beat with delight, for she knew that when her husband returned that evening he would have such a fine man-child to greet him.